Posts Tagged Christianity

Christos Yannaras: “Christian life”

Dover Beach

Christos Yannaras“Increasingly, Christian life seems to be nothing more than a particular way of behaving, a code of good conduct. Christianity is increasingly alienated, becoming a social attribute adapted to meet the least worthy of human demands – conformity, sterile conservatism, pusillanimity and timidity; it is adapted to the trivial moralizing which seeks to adorn cowardice and individual security with the funerary decoration of social decorum.”

Christos Yannaras

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Markides: “Eastern Orthodox Mysticism and Transpersonal Theory”

 

kyriacos_markides

Dr. Kyriakos Markides

Kyriacos C. Markides (b. 1942) – Dr. Markides is a professor of sociology at the University of Maine.  He has written several books on Christian mysticism including Mountain of Silence (2001), Gifts of the Desert (2005), and Inner River (2012).  Dr. Markides is a contributor to Transpersonal Psychology, a sub-field or “school” of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology.   Based on the early works of Carl Jung, William James, and Abraham Maslow, it is also possible to define Transpersonal Psychology as a “spiritual psychology”.  Dr. Markides is trying to introduce Eastern Orthodox Mysticism into Western secular Psychology, something that is long overdue and desperately needed.

I attach a paper written by Dr. Markides and published in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, in 2008 (Vol. 40, No. 2).  It is entitled, “Eastern Orthodox Mysticism and Transpersonal Theory”.  As a “teaser” to the paper, I include Dr. Markides’ abstract:

ABSTRACT: Christianity has remained relatively peripheral to the intellectual processes that shaped transpersonal theory. Eastern religions on the other hand provided the base upon which transpersonal theory was founded and developed. Spiritual traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism paved the way towards the exploration of states of consciousness beyond the rational mind. My basic claim in this paper is that the eastern branch of Christianity, or Eastern Orthodox Christianity, has preserved and developed over the centuries a mystical theology and practice that may enrich and perhaps expand what eastern religions have contributed so far to the emergence of transpersonal theory. This paper is an introduction to the mystical pathways of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It is informed by seminal literature and scriptures, several years of participant observation and depth interviews of Eastern Orthodox practitioners (mystics, monks and hermits), and complemented by experiential data related to my own journey of discovery.

Click on the blue hyperlink or the graphic, below, to open Dr. Markides paper:

Threefold Way-MarkidesMarkides Cover

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Rohr: “The Jesus Hermeneutic”

Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM, is a Franciscan Priest and contemporary Christian mystic.  He is a noted teacher, author, and lecturer and founding Director of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM.

 

Rohr1“You deserve to know my science for interpreting sacred texts. It is called a “hermeneutic.” Without an honest and declared hermeneutic, we have no consistency or authority in our interpretation of the Bible. My methodology is very simple; I will try to interpret Scripture the way that Jesus did.

Even more than telling us exactly what to see in the Scriptures, Jesus taught us how to see, what to emphasize, and also what could be de-emphasized, or even ignored. Jesus is himself our hermeneutic, and he was in no way a fundamentalist or literalist. He was a man of the Spirit. Just watch him and watch how he does it (which means you must have some knowledge of his Scriptures!).

Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalistic texts in his own Jewish Bible in favor of texts that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and justice for the oppressed. He had a deeper and wider eye that knew what passages were creating a highway for God and which passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. When Christians state that every line in the Bible is of equal importance and inspiration, they are being very unlike Jesus . . . .

Jesus read the inspired text in an inspired way, which is precisely why he was accused of “teaching with authority and not like our scribes” (Matthew 7:29).”   ~ From “Yes, And…: Daily Meditations

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Markides: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Kyriacos C. Markides (born November 19, 1942) is a professor of sociology at the University of Maine.  He has written several books on Christian mysticism including Mountain of Silence, Gifts of the Desert, and Inner River.  The following excerpt is from the book Gifts of the Desert, and gives what I consider an enlightened interpretation of John 14:6b. The context of the excerpt below is a QA session following a lecture on Eastern Orthodox spirituality.

kyriacos_markides“Just as I was about to thank the participants for their attentiveness and end the workshop, a woman who had earlier identified herself as a “born again Christian” raised her hand with marked intensity.

‘Christ taught that only through him can one go to the Father. How should we understand this statement?’ Given my audience, it was the most challenging question I faced.

I had the feeling that she needed affirmation for her beliefs and consciously or unconsciously wished to prompt me into declaring that only Christians will inherit heaven. Feeling somewhat uneasy, I reflected for a few seconds. I knew that, whatever answer I could possibly come up with, someone might feel offended or excluded. ‘Furthermore,’ I added, ‘I am not a biblical scholar who can offer an authoritative exegesis of scripture. I am certainly not a theologian.’ Inwardly, I asked for guidance as I placed my left hand in my pocket and fiddled with a komboschini [a string of black knots made out of wool that the Athonite monks use for ceaseless prayer]. Father Maximos had given it to me after pulling it off his own hand. It offered me a sense of security at that moment.

‘Look,’ I replied finally. ‘There are two possible ways to answer your question. The first is to interpret that passage in the New Testament literally, the way many Christians today would interpret it. In this sense, nobody who is not a baptized Christian can be saved. Some denominations would even make the claim that only through their specific community can a human being find salvation. This is, let us say, an ‘exoteric’ belief shared widely among fundamentalist Christians. It is a belief, however, that divides people, raising serious questions about God’s fairness and love for all his creatures. The typical objection is this: Does it mean that the billions of people who are not born Christians and who may have never heard of Christ will be lost for eternity? From a more esoteric, ‘inner Christian’ perspective such a conclusion seems misguided, to put it mildly. It denies the possibility of salvation to the overwhelming majority of the human race. Surely this could not have been Christ’s intention when he made that statement.’

I was encouraged by the facial expressions of the participants and continued. ‘Why then don’t we make an attempt to interpret that statement in a more inclusive way? Why don’t we try to look at it in terms of its possible inner meaning? I believe the Gospel of John offers us guidelines to answer questions like yours. Christ, according to the Gospel, is ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ [John 1:9]. Do you agree?’ After she nodded I continued. ‘Well, that says it all. Every human being has the Christ within his or her very nature. Furthermore, we are told that Christ is total and unconditional Love. Is it not, therefore, reasonable to conclude that whoever wishes to go to the Father, i.e., God, must attain the state of absolute and selfless love that Jesus embodied? If Christ is Love, then anyone who reaches the state of purification reaches the Father. No one can go to the Father, therefore, outside of total and selfless love. This is, I believe, the true spirit of the Christian message and this is what I understand the great saints of Christianity have taught either explicitly or implicitly.”

 

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Rohr: “Wolf in the Henhouse”

Rohr1“Unfortunately, the bottom-up, inside-out, whole-making instinct [of early Christianity] did not last. Starting in AD 313, Christianity gradually became the imperial religion of the Roman Empire. It was mostly top-down and hierarchical for the next 1700 years. As the “imperial mind” took over, religion had less to do with Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence, inclusivity, forgiveness, and simplicity, and instead became fully complicit in the world of domination, power, war, and greed itself. The wolf started living right inside the hen house, and the common pattern of low-level religion was repeated.

…I am sorry to have to share this with you, but the impact of the Church’s collusion with empire must be confessed or we will never be free from it. It also helps us understand why so many have given up on Christianity and often, unfortunately, thrown out the baby with the bathwater.”  ~Daily Meditation, 1/18/2017

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D.B. Hart: “Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience”

David Bentley Hart (1965-    ), is a contemporary American Eastern Othodox theologian and philosopher.

DB-Hart“I start from the conviction that many of the most important things we know are things we know before we can speak them; indeed, we know them—though with very little in the way of concepts to make them intelligible to us—even as children, and see them with the greatest immediacy when we look at them with the eyes of innocence. But, as they are hard to say, and as they are often so immediate to us that we cannot stand back from them objectively, we tend to put them out of mind as we grow older, and make ourselves oblivious to them, and try to silence the voice of knowledge that speaks within our own experiences of the world. Wisdom is the recovery of innocence at the far end of experience; it is the ability to translate some of that vision into words, however inadequate. There is a point, that is to say, where reason and revelation are one and the same.” ~ David Bentley Hart. from “The Experience of God”.

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Nikiforos Theotokis: “Faith consists of two parts”

Dover Beach

Nikiforos Theotokis

“Faith consists of two parts: theoretical and practical. Theoretical faith exists when we believe with our mind everything that our faith teaches without doing any good works. Such faith is dead, of no benefit, and incapable of saving man…Practical faith exists when we not only believe in everything our faith teaches, but also carry out and abide by all its orders and statutes.”

– Nikiforos Theotokis

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N.T. Wright: “The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.”

Nicholas Thomas (“Tom”) N.T. Wright (1948 –    ), is the research professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. He was previously the Anglican Bishop of Durham, and has taught New Testament Studies at Oxford, Cambridge and McGill Universities.

 

NTWright“All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans xvi, 7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.”

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Reclaiming our Prophetic Voice and Authority

“In the Biblical tradition, the power on the Right and the power on the Left are symbolized by the kings and the prophets, respectively.”  Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM

Fr. Rohr brings up a thought-provoking truth. The Jewish prophets were mainly engaged in acting as agents of God to communicate with his people. This communication came in the forms of prediction of future events, criticism and indictment of native and foreign domination systems, and energizing and encouraging the people to faith and hope.  The prophets didn’t just know about God, they knew God in a direct and experiential way. This gave them great authority, passion and confidence. They cared about what God cared about. In the words of theologian Marcus Borg, “the strongest passion of the God of the Bible is the transformation of the humanly-created world into a more just, compassionate, peaceful kind of world.”  The prophetic voice echoed that passion.

Because Christianity has been in league with the secular “kings” of this world (discussed yesterday in the post “Christendom: 1,700 years of sleeping with the enemy”), the institutional Christian Church silenced its prophets and lost its prophetic voice and authority early in its history.  In fact, so thorough was this purging, the ministries of Apostle and Prophet virtually disappeared from the institutional church (cf., Eph. 4:11).  All this in the face of the advice and direction of St. Paul to the individual members of the body of Christ to “strive for the greater gifts”; specifically, “first apostles, second prophets, third teachers”, in that order (cf., 1 Cor 12:27-31).  Oh well, “Christendom” did indeed require the institutional church to compromise some core values, didn’t it?

The point is, that when the institutional church suppressed and abandoned its prophetic tradition, the only prophetic voice left on the field was that of secular liberals.  The obvious problem with that situation was that these secular prophetic voices often had little or no grounding or authority past the limitations of their own human intellect and passion. That can be a very dangerous thing indeed, as history has amply demonstrated.

The fall of Christendom, starting after WW I in Europe and a little later (post-WW II) in the U.S., marks the breakdown of the unholy alliance between institutional church and State.  The universal Church (read: Ekklesia, Body of Christ) now has the opportunity, for the first time in 1,700 years, to reclaim its traditional Prophetic voice and authority. We have the clear advantage over secular prophets in that we know God experientially (some still do, praise God!) and thus can again speak with the authority, passion, and confidence of a loving God who calls us to restore ourselves and the world to union with him.

This is truly an exciting time for the Ekklesia, Body of Christ.  Just think, we might even grow some Apostles…

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Secular “psychology” can only help you cope: only God can deliver and cure.

The word “psychology” literally means, “study of the soul” (it is made up of two Greek words: ψυχή, psukhē, meaning “soul”; and -λογος – logos, meaning “study of”).

The fact that we are tri-partite (three-part) beings, consisting of “spirit”, “soul”, and “body” is well attested to in the New Testament (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 4:12) and in the writings of the early Fathers (e.g., Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Basil of Cesaraea).

Jesus identified many psychological issues in his teachings that we now might term “denial”, “defense mechanisms”, “projections”, and “inner healing”.  The Apostle Paul was certainly deeply involved in the transformation of the fallen human “soul” and “body” through the power and influence of the “Spirit” of God.  There are many additional New Testament examples of psychological teachings, both in the Gospels and the Epistles.

The actual term “psychology” was first used in writing during the Enlightenment of the 16th century.  The modern science of psychology is brand new, emerging in Europe in the 1870’s, with its super-hero, Sigmund Freud, starting his work in the 1890’s. I know that seems odd, given that “psychology” is such a familiar and popular part of our secular culture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. But, as a science, it really is brand new, relatively speaking.

The problem with contemporary secular psychology is that, at most, it only deals with two parts of a human being; the body and, perhaps, parts of the soul. With few exceptions, the secular study of psychology virtually ignores the spiritual aspect of humanity. It suffers the modern bias for what can be observed and measured through the five senses, relegating all else (such as spirit), to the intellectual dumpster of superstition and/or imagination.

And that is why I maintain that modern psychology can only help you “cope” with problems, it cannot “deliver” us from them or “cure” them. Secular psychology only deals with two of the three variables of the equation; our fallen “body” and “soul”. It arrogantly ignores the most important element of our being, the “spirit”. Therein lies the healing cure for these problems; the power of the “Spirit” to transform both the soul and the body to align and conform our entire being to the perfect will of God. Only God can truly heal, cure, and deliver us from psychological afflictions.

This is not “new” news, folks.  This is ancient Christian teaching that is largely being ignored or shouted down by contemporary secular “science”.

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